Samuel Pepys offers an early insight of Piazza performance with his diary entry of 9 May 1662 in which he gives the first record of a Punch & Judy show: “… thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that ever I saw, and great resort of gallants…” He was evidently taken by the Mister Punch show because he returned with his wife on the 23rd and again with friends subsequently, remarking that it was “pretty”, “pleasant” and “merry”.
The tradition still continues today, Punch’s birthday (9 May naturally) is celebrated on the Piazza every year. Puppeteers (or professors as they prefer to be called) from across the globe congregate here to the delight of wide-eyed children and their nostalgic parents. Oh yes they do. This year Mr Punch will be celebrating his 355th birthday in St Paul’s Church and garden. Punch and Judy Professors will come from all over the country for the celebrations on 14 May. The day will begin with a grand procession around Covent Garden from 11.00 completing the circuit at the Punch and Judy plaque on the church wall, where everyone will pause for a birthday toast. Mr Punch will then proceed to the pulpit of the church for his special service at 12.00, entering the garden of St Paul’s half an hour later for a merry old time of Punch and Judy shows, Puppet Workshops, Stalls, Refreshments, Folk Music by The Lost Marbles String Band, Maypole Dancing and Clowns. A good time for all is guaranteed.
Thanks to Lorie Church for the Punch & Judy history.